1. What is the H-2B Program?
  2. H-2B Visa
  3. H-2B Labor
  4. H-2B Workers
  5. Information for Employers
  6. Information for Foreign Workers
  7. Travel Information
  8. Adjustment to Life in the United States
  9. Housing
  10. Social Security Card
  11. Finances to Keep in Mind
  12. Working in Your Job Assignment
  13. Problems to Avoid
  14. Keeping in Touch
  15. Travel around the United States
  16. Taxes
  17. Returning to Your Home Country

What is the H-2B Program?

The H-2B program was created to allow foreign workers to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis to fill non-agricultural jobs in which U.S. workers are in short supply. As long as the company meets the requirements of the H-2B Program, they can hire foreign workers every year for time periods of up to ten months. If the company is too busy to obtain the proper visas, they can hire a company to take care of that process for them, so they can be free to run their business.

The H-2B program helps to close the gap in the seasonal or temporary needs for the hospitality, construction or other non-agricultural industries when there is a shortage of introductory laborers in this area.The employers' pool includes individuals, small businesses, large corporations, and government organizations. Due to the temporary nature of the job it is difficult and often impossible to fill the required temporary positions with workers from the U.S. labor force. Therefore it is an industry-wide practice to bring some temporary help from the international labor markets.

H-2B Eligible Countries

H-2B petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, as eligible to participate in the H-2B program. The Department of Homeland Security publishes the list of H-2A and H-2B eligible countries in a Federal Register notice. Designation of eligible countries is valid for one year from publication.

H-2B Visa

What Is an H-2B Visa?

The H-2B non-immigrant work visa provides a method for U.S. companies to obtain the employment of foreign workers to fill temporary or seasonal labor. The employer's need for an H-2B worker's skills must be temporary and it must demonstrate that fact to the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will consider whether the employer's needs are temporary or permanent in nature.

Requirements

One of the most significant requirements of obtaining an H-2B visa is that the need for a foreign worker is temporary. The employer must verify that the foreign worker is only needed for a short period of time (up to 10 months). A labor certification by the DOL is required for the USCIS to issue an H-2B visa. The Department of Labor must determine that there are no qualified American workers available for the position.

H-2B Time Frame

The length of stay in the U.S. on an H-2B visa is limited by the extent of the employer's temporary need for additional workers. The maximum authorized period of stay is 10 months, renewable annually.

H-2B Labor

What is Considered H-2B Labor?

H-2B labor is classified under people that are either skilled or unskilled workers. Industries which utilize H-2B labor include the Green Industry (landscape, lawn maintenance, and golf courses), the Construction Industry, and the Hospitality Industry (hotels, resorts, amusement parks).

H-2B Positions

Some positions held by H-2B workers include; dishwasher, busser, housekeeper, kitchen help, landscaping labor, fast food worker, seafood processors, etc. Employers in the non-skilled labor industries are asked to base their compensation for these workers on the prevailing rate of pay for regular American full-time employees in the same positions. Foreign workers are happy to be making these wages in the U.S. compared to what they would make in their country. Employers often prefer H-2B laborers because they are willing to work on a temporary basis and they will work the entire length of the job. Many American workers do not want temporary work and even when they do begin in that capacity, they are much more likely to leave mid-job. Foreign workers tend to be much more reliable in these types of positions.

H-2B Workers

What an H-2B Worker Will Need

H-2B workers require a visa that allows them to work for one employer on a temporary basis. After their contract period is over, they must return to their home country and reapply the following year if they wish to return or they can apply for an extension of their stay in the U.S. Although H-2B workers are protected by U.S. state and federal labor laws they are not guaranteed benefits.

Number of H-2B Workers

While there is no limit on the number of H-2B workers that a particular employer may acquire, assuming the number can be justified, there is an annual limit on the number of H-2B visas issued nationwide. This limit is commonly referred to as the H-2B visa cap. That limit is 33,000 for each half fiscal year. Once the limit is reached, no more new visas will be issued until the following half year. However, it is important to note that this visa cap does not apply to H-2B workers currently in the U.S. who wish to change employers and extend their H-2B visa.

Current H-2B visa holders or workers who participated in the H-2B program within the past 3 years are eligible for the H-2B visa extension program.

Workers can freely travel outside the U.S. on H-2B visa.

Information for Employers

Following is the pertinent information for dealing with the H-2B Program for the employer's company. Our company will file the needed paperwork and forms to obtain the documents needed to receive the temporary workers under an H-2B visa:

  • We will inform you how much the prevailing wage is for the requested position in your geographic area, which you have to pay to the workers.
  • Complete all H-2B Program applications.
  • Submit all the necessary paperwork to the Department of Labor in your state (including advertising in a local newspaper for available temporary workers) and at the federal level, the UCIS and the American Consulate in the alien's home country.
  • Provide all aspects of employees' work performance, including, but not limited: recruiting, hiring, screening, arrival and scheduling, according the standards maintained by your company. We will help the employees to apply for the H-2B Visa at the U.S. Consulate in their home country.
  • Provide Employment Agreement, Terms and Conditions of H-2B program and Accident and Sickness insurance for employees.
  • Support for employers and H-2B workers during the period of program.

For employers who wish to receive temporary or seasonal labor help from a contracting company on a temporary basis, we can provide:

  • An Agreement - The labor service contract grants contracting company the right and privilege to provide the necessary temporary labor service as and when requested by your company.
  • Simplifying Labor Relations ? You will be provided all aspects of work performance, including, but not limited to: recruiting, hiring, scheduling, promoting, disciplining, wage determination and training.
  • Calculating Invoices for the services of its personnel which shall indicate the number of hours, rate per hour, name of employee, and area worked during the previous billing period.
  • Contracting company will pay the temporary employees in accordance with all federal, state and local wage and hour laws, including any minimum wage and overtime earned by the employees. It will comply with related tax filings and deductions for these employees.

For employers who wish to employ temporary workers themselves, our company can complete the necessary paperwork and provide the needed international workers through a period of increased business activity.

Benefits of H-2B Program for Employers

The H-2B program can be beneficial for the employer and the worker. For the employer, it will provide additional employees who are only allowed to work on a temporary basis, so they do not have to feel bad about hiring and rehiring only during the seasons the workers are needed. Under the H-2B program, foreign workers are hired on a temporary basis and then are off the company payroll when the job is over. For the worker, it is a great opportunity to make more money than they would be able to earn in their home country.

International H-2B workers are highly motivated working in the U.S. as temporary workers and they in turn share their cultural uniqueness at the workplace. Specially selected and checked, the H-2B workers undergo an interview qualification process and pay taxes. Our company helps them to complete the necessary paperwork, obtain insurance, and provide other important detailed functions to insure that their stay in the U.S. is smooth and pleasurable. We recognize that the needs and the well-being of the workers are always top priorities.

Employer's Eligibility Requirements

The H2-B visa has very few general limitations. It is only available for work that is temporary in nature. The job must be one of the following:

  • Seasonal - the employer requires a person to perform work which will recur predictably year to year.
  • Peak Load - the employer must establish that sought after labor will be used to supplement its permanent staff due to a short-term spike in demand for its products or services.
  • One-Time Occurrence - the employer must establish that it did not employ workers to perform the specified work in the past, and will not need workers to perform the work in the future.
  • Intermittent - the employer has work which is by nature sporadic and unpredictable.

The employer also must satisfy the following conditions to import foreign workers under the H-2B visa:

  • The job must be for less than one year and be in a non-agricultural field.
  • The employer must also prove that there are no unemployed U.S. workers willing or able to do the work. This is established through the state's employment agency using a labor certification process. This process requires a recruitment campaign, including advertising in a local newspaper for available temporary workers.
  • The job must pay at least the prevailing wage for that position in your geographic area, which is set by the Department of Labor. The prevailing wage is higher than the federal minimum wage and is based upon annual Department of Labor surveys that determine the normal wage for each occupation in each major city.<l/li>

Arranging H-2B Visas for U.S. employers and international temporary staff takes approximately 4-5 months from the initial application to the arrival of the employee in the U.S.

Information for Foreign Workers

Foreign workers who want to upgrade their skills to the American standards, and learn more about our life, history and culture are more than welcome to join the program. The requirements and application procedures are the same for both American and foreign workers. You can find the requirements along with other information on this website. We would also recommend reading the following useful information. The text below will help answer some of your questions, prepare you for your experience in America, and help you adjust to this program.

What Can This Program Do for You?

The H-2B Visa program provides an opportunity for international persons to visit the United States and work for up to 10 months. The experience that you are about to enjoy will be one of the best in your life. The culture and life in the United States offers so much variety and opportunities to explore that you will come out of this experience having grown as a person. The melting pot that is the United States will give you a chance to meet many kinds of people and learn about their unique ways of life. Don't look at this as just an opportunity to make money; look at it as an opportunity to make friends, learn and gain independence.

Benefits of the H-2B Program for prospective or current employees:

  • Foreign workers who want to upgrade their skills to the American standards, and learn more about life, history and culture of the USA are more than welcome to join the H-2B program. Every year American employers hire numerous temporary workers to live and work under the H-2B visa program for the busier time of the year when it is extremely difficult to find sufficient labor from the U.S.
  • Participants in the program are legally able to work in the U.S. for a full summer or winter season, typically 5-6 months. We provide H-2B visa paperwork and much-needed guidance and assistance to people who desire to experience international knowledge and employment.
  • Current H-2B visa holders or workers who participated in the H-2B program within the past 3 years are eligible for the H-2B visa extension program. Our company can provide placement and the visa assistant for the next season.
  • H-2B workers can also bring their dependents to stay with them in the U.S. Spouses of H-2B visa holders or an unmarried child under 21 years of age of H-2B visa holders are issued an H-4 visa. They may remain in the US as long as the authorized stay of the H-2B visa holder. H-4 visa holders are not permitted to work in the US but are allowed to attend school.
  • Workers can freely travel outside the U.S. on H-2B visa.

Travel Information

Tickets

Every participant is responsible for providing their own, round-trip airline tickets to the United States. All major airlines have information and websites on the Internet, so it should be fairly easy to find a flight to the United States from your home country. The tickets can be purchased online, through a travel agent, or by calling the airline directly. Airline tickets can get expensive, so consider purchasing them in advance of your trip. We would advise a few months advanced purchase, but even a few weeks can give you considerable savings.

What to pack:

Do not over-pack for your trip. Very often, you will be bringing back more things then you brought into the US, and since the airlines have bag limits, you will need to plan accordingly.

Just for general information, most airlines let you check two bags and bring one carry-on piece of luggage, but remember that you will have to carry all this around with you, so don't over-pack.

General Packing Suggestions:

Carry-On (usually limited to 9 X 14 X 22 inches)

  • Personal Valuables (money, credit cards, travelers checks*, phone card, jewelry, prescription glasses/contact lenses, feminine protection)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Tickets*
  • Driver's Licenses*
  • Insurance Information
  • Passport with your H-2B Visa attached*
  • Job confirmation form*
  • Any prescription medication with the doctor's note (in English) describing what it is for
  • Any Social Security forms if you have received them on previous trips to US*

*You may wish to make photocopies of these forms and keep them separate from the originals - in places such as your check-in bags, or even back at home in your home country.

Remember not to bring any sharp objects on the plane with you. Everyday things such as scissors and multi-use swiss army knives can be construed as weapons by airport guards. This misunderstanding can cause delays and can even bring charges. To be safe, ask your travel agent if you are not sure of the item or better yet, pack it in the checked luggage.

Checked Bags

Clothing:

  • Shoes - tennis shoes (1), dress shoes (1), casual shoes (1), sandals (1)
  • Dress socks and any athletic socks
  • Dress shirts or blouses (2 or 3)
  • Casual shirts (5-7)
  • Sweater (1)
  • Sweatshirt (1)
  • Sweatpants (1)
  • Jeans (1-2)
  • Jacket (may depend on the location)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Shorts (1-2 - may depend on the location)
  • Hats (may depend on the location)

Toiletries and Medicine:

  • Non-prescription medication
  • Cosmetics
  • A first aid kit
  • Hairbrush or comb
  • Shampoo, soap
  • Condoms/Contraceptives
  • Sunscreen (try to get at least an SPF 30, especially if traveling to a sunny climate)
  • Shaving accessories

Any Miscellaneous items:

  • Books, magazines
  • Sleeping bag
  • Umbrella
  • Identification tags for your luggage
  • Electric plug adapter (to convert from European voltage to American voltage)
  • Any other items that might be useful to you
  • Journal and pens (if you like keeping a journal)

Keep your entire luggage close to you at crowded places such as airports and bus terminals. Pay special attention to valuables like wallets, passports, documents and anything else that is difficult to replace. Do not pack your valuables in your luggage; keep them with you at all times.

Adjustment to Life in the United States

Appreciating the cultural variety in the U.S. and the differences between your home culture and the one you will live in will add adventure and enjoyment to your academic activities.

Culture Shock

During your first few weeks in the U.S. you will probably be full of energy and excitement as you observe all the new sights and are exposed to the customs of American life. You will be eager to learn and be very busy adapting. After a while, however, you may experience feelings of loneliness and homesickness. Such feelings, and the disorientation which usually accompanies them, are commonly referred to as "culture shock." Almost all people who live in a country other than theirs initially experience culture shock. This is usually a temporary situation and recognizing the problem is the first step in overcoming it.

Try to socialize more; other people can help lift your spirits. Physical activities such as sports are especially helpful because you can work off a lot of tension while meeting people. Talking with Americans can help you feel more accepted, help you learn about points of culture you do not understand, and provide an opportunity to practice your English. Developing close contact with fellow nationals may also help, however isolation within national groups will make adjustment more difficult. Try to mix with Americans as much as possible. This will also give them an opportunity to get to know you and learn about your country.

Take the initiative in making contacts with Americans. Most Americans have much less experience with persons who are culturally different from themselves than you do, and most Americans are glad to get to know you. Sharing cultural differences and similarities is good for all involved and will be very helpful to you in clearing up misunderstandings you may have. Remember, adjusting to a new culture can be frustrating, but if you keep your sense of humor it can also leave you with unforgettably funny stories about cultural interactions.

Characteristics and Customs of US Americans

Americans place a great deal of emphasis on individualism. For this reason, you may find the American family structure less cohesive than that which you are accustomed. Americans may also show their individualism by questioning authority and challenging social barriers. Although you may think some dress or behavior is in poor taste, as long as a person does not bother another, that person is permitted a great deal of flexibility in his/her expression of individuality.

The "typical" American family is nonexistent, and the concept itself leads to stereotyping. With one or frequently both parents working, children attending school, and several or all members engaging in outside social and recreational activities, the home is seldom "quiet." The close-knit families you may be used to are not as prevalent, but most American family members are supportive of each other. Such a loose family structure is also advantageous to you because the informality of this lifestyle offers an opening for you to share in your friends' family life.

A wide range of religions exist in the U.S. and many Americans are deeply religious. Churches and other places of worship frequently serve as cultural and social centers of the community. The variety of places of worship offers a unique opportunity for international students to explore. Church services are open to the public and frequently, immediately before or after the service, a "coffee hour" is held to meet people. Mutual respect of different religious beliefs is important to the maintenance of the social fabric. Religious conviction tends to be a private matter with most Americans, but many are willing to answer questions and will express interest in your beliefs.

Americans are taught that "all men are created equal," and Americans continue to fight for equal rights for women, the handicapped and minorities. Historically, problems related to racial or ethnic backgrounds have affected many groups in America, such as African Americans, Asians and recent immigrants. We hope you will never face racial or ethnic prejudice.

Americans always seem to be going somewhere and rushing to get there on time. This is largely because of the enormous demands on their time, such as work-related responsibilities, family, social activities and obligations. Most Americans are very time-conscious, and they will want and expect you to arrive "on time" at appointments, whether formal or informal. Persons who arrive more than 15 minutes after a scheduled meeting time are expected to offer an apology and, often, an explanation of why they were late.

Housing

There are three choices in arranging housing:

  1. The employer arranges for your housing before your arrival.
  2. If the employer does not arrange for housing, we assist in any way we can to insure the employee has a place to stay from the very first night through his entire stay. This could be more expensive since you may have to stay in more expensive quarters temporarily.
  3. The employee can send the first months rent and deposit before departing his home country and his living quarters will be waiting for him upon arrival.

Housing is not provided for you as a part of this program. Some employers will arrange housing at about $150-$250 per month per person, but that is a rare occurrence. In the case that housing is arranged for you, a deposit of about one month's rent will be required.

For most employers, housing will not be provided ahead of time and you will have to find your own accommodations. This might take a few days, because it is hard to arrange long-term accommodations from your home country. You will have to do that once you arrive at your destination. If the employer does not provide arrangements for living quarters, we will make sure that you have a place to stay from the first night you are here and for the rest of your stay. We will also see that you have the necessary transportation. There could be a few choices in the area to which you are traveling for short-term housing:

  • Hostelling International, which is low cost housing for short periods of stay, can be contacted at 1-202-783-6161 for information on availability in your area. There are many Hostel locations throughout the United States, but you should be a member to get the most advantageous prices. You can become a member (for a minimal fee) from your home country calling the above number and paying with a credit card. If you don't have a credit card, ask for their information on the best way to become a member.
  • YMCA also provides affordable short-term housing. Call them at 1-202-308-2899 to find out more information and availability in your area
  • Many colleges and universities rent out their housing for summer and that can be a good short or long-term housing alternative. Contact the Housing Offices in the universities to find out about their availability.
  • You can also stay at hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts. Remember, you have to have some money ($700-$1000) when you come into the United States for such expenses.

Looking for long-term housing

Ask around for the best housing. Your employer, coworkers and friends can be invaluable in this search. You can also look on the internet, in newspapers, and in apartment guide books for suggestions. Do not take the first apartment you find available! SHOP AROUND! Prices can vary from apartment to apartment. To lower costs, share an apartment with a friend - that will be advantageous in terms of finances and in terms of companionship.

  • You can find university students who are looking for a roommate
  • University students wanting to sublet their apartment for the summer
  • You can find sublet advertisements in the local newspapers
  • Be careful with renting because the lease agreements are usually for one year
  • Boarding is another option - that means renting a room in someone's house
  • Check out roommate services to help you look for a roommate. Look in the Yellow Pages phone book under Roommate Referral Agencies

Questions to ask while looking for housing:

  • Cost
  • Distance from job
  • How close are entertainment, stores, banks
  • How close is public transportation
  • When can you move in
  • Is it safe
  • How much is a security deposit
  • What utilities are included in the price and how much can you expect to pay extra for utilities that are not included
  • Is furniture provided
  • Can apartments be shared with a roommate
  • How payments are structured (monthly, weekly?)
  • Are laundry facilities close by

Social Security Card

You need to apply for a Social Security card as soon as possible upon arrival in the United States. A social security number is needed if you plan to work in this country.

How to Get the Card

To apply for a Social Security number and card, you need to complete Form SS-5 which is available for download at http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.html. Or you can obtain Form SS-5 by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting your local Social Security office. These services are free.

You will also need to submit at least two documents as evidence of your age, identity, and U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status.

  • For age evidence your passport (with H-2B visa attached) should be sufficient
  • For identity, the passport (with H-2B visa attached) should also be sufficient, but you can also bring your health Insurance card or employer ID card
  • You will need to provide an address on your social security application. You can use the address of your new apartment in the US, your employer's address (ask them beforehand), or a friends or relative's address.

You should receive your card by mail fairly soon (within 15 business days from the date of application). If you have any questions about the status of your application, or to find out your social security number over the phone, call 1-800-772-1213. Your employer needs to know your Social Security number as soon as possible and you should bring your card home with you in order to file taxes and in case you will be visiting United States again - your number stays with you for the rest of your life.

Finances to Keep in Mind

The most important financial point is to bring enough money to live on until your first paycheck. Most likely, you will not get paid at your job until 2-4 weeks after you start working. To cover the expenses until that first paycheck you will need anywhere from $700 - $1000, so please plan accordingly. This beginner money will be needed to cover initial expenses, food, housing and activities for at least one month.

Once you start receiving paychecks, keep in mind that this will be the money that you will have to live on. Your lifestyle should reflect your paycheck and if you want to save some money for when you go home, more adjustments will be needed.

Bank Accounts

Opening a bank account should be on your list of primary things to do once you come to your destination. An account will let you deposit your paychecks, withdraw funds, and receive funds from your home country. All banks vary from one another, so you should shop around before selecting a bank you want to use. Once you have decided to open an account bring your social security number, your passport, credit cards and proof of where you are living to the bank to ease the process.

Here are some helpful questions to ask the prospective banks:

  • Does the bank have an information booklet regarding the service(s) it offers?
  • What type of service(s) does the bank offer for traveler's checks, overseas transfers, etc?
  • What kind of fees does the bank charge for ATM usage?
  • What are the hours of service and location of bank branches?
  • Does the bank offer free checking if you maintain a specific balance in either a savings or a checking account?
  • What fees and charges are related to checking account services?
  • Does the bank allow automatic deposit of your payroll checks?
  • What are the holding periods when paychecks, local checks, and/or out-of-state checks are deposited?
  • Does the bank allow phone transfer of funds from savings to checking account, or vice versa? Is there a charge for phone transfer of funds?
  • Does the bank offer interest on checking accounts?
  • What is the interest rate paid on a savings account?
  • What is the minimum required balance for savings?
  • Does the bank offer any benefits (including gifts) for opening a savings account or for maintaining a certain balance?
  • What, if anything, does the bank charge for withdrawals? Are there other fees for ATM services?

ATMs and Debit Cards

ATM stands for Automated Teller Machines - often called cash machines. ATMs allow you to take out money from your bank or building society account or to get cash advances with a credit card. Before you can draw money out of the machine with a credit card, debit card or ATM card, you must type in your personal identification number (PIN). This number is secret and unique to you. You must not tell anyone your PIN because it is the key to your bank account. Even bank staffs do not know the number.

ATM machines can be used 24 hours a day and can be very useful for withdrawing funds. Make sure you get a debit card from your bank and find out where the nearest machine is located. If you use an ATM that belongs to another bank, it can charge you a fee for using it (usually $1.50 to $2.00).

Traveler's Checks

Traveler's Checks are a form of money used by an individual traveling outside of his immediate area of residence. They are used in place of cash and are accepted around the world. Traditional checks only require one signature and are usually available in $20, $50 or $100 denominations and applicable packages. The buyer must sign all the checks in the space provided at the top. When the buyer wishes to use one of the checks, he/she fills in the date, the name of the payee, and signs his/her name at the bottom of the check. The checks are only negotiable when countersigned by the buyer at the time of cashing.

Traveler's Checks are serially numbered and you should keep track of those numbers in case the checks are lost or stolen. If this happens, call your bank and report the loss, they should be able to replace your checks within a few hours. Keep a list of serial numbers away from your checks, so it is not lost with them.

Credit Cards

Credit cards allow you to make immediate purchases and then decide over what period to pay. You are sent monthly statements showing what you have bought. You can either repay the full amount (usually free from any interest) or pay back only some of the amount. These are used by almost all Americans, but try not to overspend, it is hard to keep track of these purchases and you will have to pay back the money.

Western Union

Using this service, you can transfer money from your home country to anywhere in the United States within 15 minutes. There is a charge that depends on the amount sent. Please call 1-800-225-5227 to find an office nearest you and to the person sending the money. There is another similar service of transferring money - telegraphic transfer. This wire transfer allows money transfers from home bank to a bank in the US. This service takes more time, usually a week or longer.

US Currency

As you might already know, the main unit of currency in the United States is the dollar ($1). One dollar breaks into 100 cents. This is a simple metric system that you should easily understand. The bills are in the values of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The coins are 1 cent (penny), 5 cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter), and 50 cents (half dollar).

If you need to know the exchange rates of the US dollar, a good website for that is the Yahoo currency converter.

Sales Tax

The bill you receive while shopping, visiting restaurants, or doing other activities, will include a sales tax. This is a common national practice, so don't be surprised at the higher then marked prices. You will see the mark-up only when you come to the register. Sales taxes vary across the United States and can be as low as 3% or as high as 9%.

Tipping

Tipping is the practice of giving a percentage of the cost for a service to the individual who provides that service. In the United States customers or clients pay tips to waiters, baggage handlers, hair dressers, taxi drivers and hotel room service providers.

To international visitors, tipping may appear to be giving away extra money for what a person is already paid to do. In many service professions, however, the person who serves you is paid a small wage and depends on customers' tips to make minimum wages; tipping is meant to encourage your server to give you good service. Tipping is not mandatory, but it is a custom to do so, unless you received terrible service.

Here are suggestions for tipping, but of course, the amount of a tip depends on you and whether or not you feel you received good service.

  • Restaurant waiters - 15%-20% of the total cost
  • Airport and hotel baggage handlers - $ .50-$1.00 per bag
  • Barber shops/beauty salons - 15%-20% of the price for service
  • Taxi drivers - 10%-15% of fare
  • Hotel room service - $1.00-$2.00

Remember! You should never tip police officers, government employees, or government officials. It may be interpreted as a bribe, which is illegal. You do not tip bus drivers, theater ushers, museum guides, salespeople, employees at "fast food" restaurants, or hotel clerks.

Working in Your Job Assignment

There are several important points about your work assignment that you should keep in mind.

  • You have to make careful note of the start and end dates of your job assignment as stated on the placement forms. Plan to arrive at your destination prior to the start date - you will be able to get somewhat adjusted before you have to begin work.
  • Once you arrive, call your employer to let them know you arrived and ask what time and to whom you have to report to on your start date.
  • You should not leave your job earlier then promised in your job assignment form, the employer is counting on you and you should not disappoint them.
  • Pay attention to the dress and actions of your co-workers - these should give you an idea of what is expected from you at the workplace. Do what your supervisors tell you and keep a positive attitude about your job - it will make life much easier.
  • Teamwork is very important in US workplaces, so don't shy away from your co-workers. Being friendly will earn you extra points with your employer and might even get you friends for your time spent away from work.
  • Socializing at the job is important and quite common, but you are still expected to finish all your tasks.
  • Arriving on time and even early is a sign of a good worker. Do not leave early for the day and do not take breaks that are too long.
  • Any problems at work should be resolved in a professional manner. Talking to other workers or to your supervisor should eliminate many conflicts that you may encounter.

Getting Fired or Laid Off

It is possible to get laid off from your job. Workers are usually laid off through no fault of their own - the reasons could be slow business, or any number of other problems. Make yourself valuable to your employer. If any need for lay-offs occurs, they will be less likely to get rid of valuable employees.

Firings, on the other hand, usually have something to do with your performance or attitude on the job. If the employer is not happy with you for any reason, you can get fired. This usually will be preceded by a warning that your employer is not happy with you, so try to correct the situation at the time of the warning and you might be able to keep your job after the improvement. If you are fired, or if you have any serious problems at work, please contact us and we will try to help you fix the situation.

Wages

There is a minimum hourly wage for most jobs in the United States. Currently, that wage is set at $5.15 per hour. The individuals, who receive most of their wages through tips or room and board, will most likely be getting less then the minimum hourly wage. The law varies in such situations, but the average that those individuals get paid should still not be below the minimum hourly wage.

You should check with your employer how often you will receive your paycheck and plan your spending accordingly. The wages might be paid every week, every two weeks, or every month. When you receive your paycheck, you will notice that you are paid slightly less then what you had earned (hours x hourly wage). This is due to the taxes that are taken out of your wages. The employer should give you your check with a pay stub attached to it. The pay stub will describe the taxes you are paying. You should not have Social Security taxes, FUTA taxes, or the Medicare taxes deducted from your salary because you are an H-2B participant. Please keep all your pay stubs and take them back to your home country with you - they will be helpful in filing your taxes.

Problems to Avoid

The United States has a very extensive legal system and strict law enforcement. There are many federal crimes and misdemeanors to be avoided in addition to any local laws and customs that may be unique to the area you are living in. To find out any local laws ask your friends, neighbors, and employers about what you should watch out for. Also, you should pay attention to how others are behaving themselves and try not to do anything too out of the ordinary.

Some actions to avoid:

  • Drinking alcohol in public places
  • Underage drinking (You must be 21 to drink legally. Obtain an identification card from your local Department of Motor Vehicles in order to get into most bars. This card will include your date of birth and a picture, and it does not allow you to operate any motor vehicles.)
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Drug possession (or association with anyone in possession)
  • Drug trafficking
  • Destruction of property
  • Shoplifting
  • Bouncing checks
  • Smoking where a non-smoking sign is posted

These actions can cause any of the following penalties:

  • Jail time
  • Deportation
  • Monetary fine
  • Community service

Keeping in Touch

E-Mail

The single best way of keeping in touch with your friends and family while in the United States, is by e-mail. It is cheap and fast. You should open an e-mail account with such widespread services as hotmail.com or yahoo.com. These are free services and can be accessed from any computer. In the US, you can find computers with Internet in many cafes and public libraries.

Telephone

A telephone could be another excellent way of communication, but it can get expensive, especially if calling to your home country. Local calls consist of seven digits in the United States. If you are calling out of your city, you might need to dial another 3 digits that come before the local number. You will also need to dial a "1" before dialing any long distance number (all together there will be 11 digits in a long distance number).

You may wish to get a phone book to look up numbers that you need. If you don't have a phone book, you can dial 411 to reach Directory Assistance and find a needed number that way. This can cost money though, so your best bet is the phone book. There are two widely used phone books in the US. The White Pages are useful for looking up individuals by name. There are also the Yellow Pages which are a business directory with entries broken down into business categories.

If you need to call home there are several digits to dial:

011 + country code + city code + number

There is also another way to pay for phone calls. A debit phone card can be purchased at most drug stores. There are many companies that offer calling cards and they differ in prices among each other and among the calls to different countries. You should compare rates for these, but it is usually the cheapest way to make long-distance calls from a payphone.

Mail

There are several stamp rates to keep track of in the United States. The most often used rates are 37 cents for a plain letter and 23 cents for a postcard. Rates for international mailings vary by weight, so please find them out at the post office.

Please buy stamps at the post office to avoid any extra charges at the stamp machines. You should not pay any more then the value of the stamps. To mail a letter, you can deposit it in the blue U.S. mailboxes that can be found on many streets, or you can take the letter to the post office and mail it there.

Travel around the United States

You might want to take the opportunity to travel in the USA and visit the many attractions and cities that it has to offer. If you decide to travel, there are many ways of getting around the country. You have to decide which way is more advantageous for you and for the distance you have to travel. Travel can be costly, so make sure you have saved enough money from your work assignment in order to afford the expenses associated with travel.

Air

The United States is an enormous country with activities and areas that range from plains to mountain ranges to beautiful lakes and rivers. The distances between various locations can be staggering, so the best and the fastest way to travel is usually by airplane.

Prices are high for airline fares, so check out the internet where the best prices can usually be found. Check out priceline.com and travelocity.com. Southwest Airlines usually has cheap flights around the U.S.

Bus

Travel by bus is a cheaper alternative to the airplane. The biggest bus company in the United States is the Greyhound Bus Lines. It is present in all major cities and many small ones and you can get almost anywhere you wish through this service. They have student discounts and buy one get one free discounts, so inquire about those when you order your tickets. Check out availability, prices, schedules, and buy tickets online at greyhound.com. You can also call Greyhound 24 hours a day at 1-800-229-9424.

You can buy a Discovery Pass at Greyhound which appears to be an excellent option. The pass can be bought for a predetermined length of time (4 - 60 days) and used for travel in a chosen area, which can be in the U.S. or in Canada. There are unlimited stopovers in the duration of the pass.

Train

Another travel alternative is the train service. Trains are not as popular in the United States as other means of travel, but they can provide a wonderful experience for you. Amtrak would be the company that you would use if you wanted to travel by train. The website for this company is amtrak.com, or call toll-free at 1-800-USA-RAIL. Amtrak offers a USA Rail Pass for international travelers. This pass offers unlimited travel for a specified time period (from 5 to 30 days). There is a national pass as well as regional passes. The regional passes are somewhat cheaper then a national one, which can run several hundred dollars.

Car

Americans like to travel by car because it allows them the flexibility of their own schedule and invites a closer examination of the countryside and the often beautiful scenery. Drivers need to have a driver's license. You will need your home country driver's license and an International Driver's License (this can be obtained prior to coming to United States in your home country). If you plan to drive, keep in mind that most car rental companies require you to be 21 years old and to have a major credit card. Some major car rental companies are: Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo, Hertz, Thrifty, and Budget among many others. As you can see, there are many choices, so you should shop around before choosing your car rental company.

Before driving any vehicle in the United States, visit your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles and get the booklet on driving and traffic rules. Learn the rules before getting on the road because the Unites States rules and signs might greatly differ from the ones in your home country.

Tours

Tours can be a great way to travel in the United States. This is a simple solution if you do not have the time to organize your own trip to the smallest details. You can sign up for a tour and everything will be prepared for you. Tours can be found online or from a local travel agent. Check your local Yellow Pages to find an agent. Tours allow you to see a large area in the shortest amount of time. This also gives you an opportunity not to travel alone and be safer in a group of people.

Taxes

The following information is taken from United States government website http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p519.pdf. It can be found in 'Publication 519', the 'U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens'. The most helpful information was found in Chapters 7 and 8 of that publication. For your ease of use, we have reproduced the most helpful information here.

When you come to your place of employment, your employer should ask you to fill out form W-4. Since you are a nonresident alien you have to follow different directions then the ones stated on form W-4. Here are the directions:

  • Check only "Single" marital status on line 3 (regardless of your actual marital status)
  • Claim only one allowance on line 5, unless you are a resident of Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, or a U.S. national
  • Request that your employer withhold an additional amount of $7.60 per week on line 6. If your wages are paid based on a 2-week pay period, the additional amount will be $15.30. For other payroll periods, ask your employer for the amounts to enter
  • Do not claim "Exempt" withholding status on line 7

At the end of the year you should receive form W-2 from your employer. This form details the wages and taxes throughout the year. If you work for more then one employer, you should receive a W-2 from each of them. Make sure you leave them your home country address, so they know where to send the form. You will be required to submit copies of this form with your tax return, so don't disregard it.

Taxes in the United States usually have to be submitted by April 15th of every year. There will be separate forms that you have to fill out for federal, state, and local income taxes. Ask for the state and local forms from your employer, and the federal forms can be found at a U.S. post office or library, or at your home country U.S. embassy. For the federal return you will have to file either a form 1040NR or a form 1040NR-EZ (most likely alternative). If too little tax was withheld from your wages during the year, then you will have to pay the difference to the U.S. government. If too much tax were withheld, then you are due a refund. The earlier you file your taxes, the earlier you will receive any refund.

You can use form 1040NR-EZ (which is simpler to fill out) if all of the following apply:

  • You do not claim any dependants
  • You cannot be claimed as a dependant on someone else's U.S. tax return
  • If you were married, you cannot claim an exemption for your spouse
  • Your taxable income is less than $50,000
  • You do not claim any itemized deductions (other than for state and local income taxes)
  • Your only U.S. source of income is from wages, salaries, tips, taxable refunds of state and local income taxes, and scholarship and fellowship grants. (If you had taxable interest or dividend income, you cannot use this form.)
  • You are not claiming any adjustments to income other than the student loan interest deduction or scholarship and fellowship grants excluded
  • You are not claiming any credits
  • The only taxes you owe are:
    • The income tax from the Tax Table
    • The social security and Medicare tax on tip income not reported to your employer

Your tax return has to be sent to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service Center
Philadelphia, PA 19255

Returning to Your Home Country

Returning home is an event that has to be taken seriously and planned for. A couple of weeks before your return flight call the airline and reconfirm your flight. This is a necessary step to make sure that there are no problems once you arrive at the airport to go home with your visa expiring. Call again the day of your flight to make sure there are no delays or any other problems. Call your airline directly; calling the airport can be time consuming and will not provide you with the information you need.

Home Arrival

Coming back to your home country can be somewhat a shock to some participants. The new experiences in United States will have changed you as a person, so you will see the old surroundings in a new light and you will appreciate your home country differently. What you have left at home when going to the United States, will have also changed: your friends and family lived their normal lives while you were gone. Don't be shocked at the changes you see. They are a part of normal life and help you grow as a person.

Your experiences in the United States will show you the opportunities that exist outside of your home country, illuminate life in a foreign environment, and give you the confidence that you can succeed in new situations. This is a unique experience you should cherish forever. Keep all the addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers of the friends you made in the United States and stay in touch with them. This gives you a larger networking base around the world and keeps the cherished memories of your trip alive.